Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chhaiyya-Chhaiyya (Dil Se..)

In Banasthali, we had offs on Tuesday (yes, not on Sundays). So instead of Saturday nights we used to celebrate Monday nights. I had joined Banasthali some time in July 1998, when Dil Se.. was just about to be released. So on our first few Monday nights, half the time we ended up dancing to Chhaiya-chhaiya (the other half was taken up by Chhamma-chhamma). So this song still reminds me of those crazy (but well practiced) dance-steps from 13 years back.

All the dance memories aside, the lyrics are not typical for a dance track. Initially, Sukhwinder Singh had offered a Punjabi devotional track 'Thaiya-thaiya' (based on Bulleh Shah's verses) for this situation. Gulzar wrote Chhaiya-chhaiya drawing inspiration from the devotional undertones but essentially interpreting it in his own inimitable way. These devotional undertones are often present in his non-filmy poetry as well, where the beloved is depicted as almost sacred or divine. (Will update the blog with a few such lines soon - updated here).

Once again, I'll give the literal translation (shabdaarth) first, followed by my interpretation of the intended meaning (bhaavaarth), wherever required. Specifically, I've tried to explain the paragraphs which allude to faith etc. in detail. I've tried to do a little research before writing; but if I've interpreted something incorrectly, please do correct me. Because I do not want to hurt any religious sentiments here.

Lyrics, and translation

Jinke sar ho ishk ki chhaon, paaon ke neeche jannat hogi
Jinke sar ho ishk ki chhaon

[[Those, who have the shade of love over their head, will have heaven at their feet.

This world is not a pretty place to live in. And living here without love is like walking under the glaring sun, and it could get really unpleasant without (the shade of) love. But if you've loved someone, life becomes so beautiful it's almost as if you're in heaven - without any pain or suffering.]]

Chal chhaiya-chhaiya chhaiya-chhaiya
chhaiya-chhaiya chhaiya-chhaiya
Chal chhaiya-chhaiya chhaiya-chhaiya
chhaiya-chhaiya chhaiya-chhaiya

[[So, walk in this shade (of love).]]

Sar ishk ki chhaon chal chhaiya-chhaiya
Paaon jannat chale chal chhainya

[[Walk in this shade of love, and you'll feel like you're in heaven.]]

(Chal chaiya-chaiya...)

Wo yaar hai jo khushbu ki tarah, jiski zubaan Urdu ki tarah
Meri shaam-raat, meri kaaynaat, wo yaar mera saiyaan-saiyaan

[[My beloved, who's sweet like a fragrance; and whose voice is like a beautiful poetry in Urdu language,
The one who is my day and night, who's the whole world for me - only she can be my lover.

Khushbu ki tarah - like a fragrance: sweet and pure, but cannot be caught or held down.]]

(Chal chaiya-chaiya...)

Gulposh kabhi itraaye kahin, mahke to nazar aa jaaye kahin
Tabeez (Taveez) bana ke pahnoon use, aayat ki tarah mile jaaye kahin

[[She, who's clad in flowers, loves to flaunt (her beauty); her fragrance is so bewitching that you can find/recognize her by her fragrance alone.
She's sacred like an aayat (a verse from Quran). I wish I come across her (by a miracle), then I'll wear her like a amulet.

Aayat is the plural of aayah which means a verse from the Quran but it can also mean signs, revelations, miracles, etc. (source). 
Tabeez is an amulet with Quranic inscription, which protects you from evil.

So the second line could mean that "If I meet her, I'll treat her as a sacred verse from Quran, and always keep her close to me." Also, she's like his good-luck charm.]]

Wo yaar hai jo imaan ki tarah, mera nagma wahi mera kalma wahi
(Mera nagma-nagma, mera kalma-kalma)

[[She's like my faith, she is my song and my Kalma from Quran.

In this line as well as in the previous lines, the devotional, almost reverential allusions are pretty apparent. There are six Kalma's in Quran (Please correct me if I'm wrong), the first one being "Laa ilaaha illal Lahoo Mohammadur Rasool Ullah", considered very sacred by in Islam.]]

Yaar misaal-e-os chale, paaon ke tale firdaus chale
Kabhi daal-daal, kabhi paat-paat, main hawa pe dhoondhoon uske nishaan

[[My beloved walks like dew-drops, it's as if she's walking with the paradise under her feet
I keep looking for her everywhere, I search for her signs in the air.

Misaal-e-os - Like dew-drops. One moment she's there, and the next she has disappeared.
Paaon ke tale firdaus chale - Again referring to 'paon ke neeche jannat' line, perhaps?
Hawa pe dhoondhoon uske nishaan - Could refer to the first line 'misaal-e-os' where she has disappeared like a dew-drop and now I'm looking for her in the air. Or could refer to a previous line 'mahke to nazar aa jaaye kahin' - he's searching for her fragrance in the air. In all, he's hoping that the air will whisper to him about her whereabouts or give him a clue about how to find her.]]

(Sar ishk ki chhaon chal chhaiya-chhaiya...)

Main uske roop ka shaidaayi, wo dhoop-chhaon sa harjaayi
Wo shokh hai rang badalta hai, main rang-roop ka saudaayi

[[I'm an admirer of her beauty, but she's elusive like sun and shade.
She is playful and keeps changing her colors, and I deal in beauty and colors.

Rang badalta hai - Changes colors. Doesn't stay the same. Is fleeting and deceptive.

The other recurring theme in this song is the elusive nature of this beloved. She's been referred to as fragrance, dew drops, sun-and-shade at various points in this song - basically she's not easy to catch or pin down. She's like an enigma, which makes her all the more desirable to this saudaayi (derived from 'sauda' (trade).]]

(Jinke sar ho ishk ki chhaon...)

Totally unrelated: Watch SRK's jump atop the train at 3:30 minutes in the video.


  1. Awesome post Kanu..yet another masterpiece!! Loved going through the lyrics and the translation..some of them reminded me of Rumi's poems on love!! :)

  2. once again a very nice post. never gave much importance to the lyrics of this song. always been only a dance song for me, but your blog changed that impression :) good work.
    Dil Se is one of my favoritest movies. also it reminds me of the time when i absolutely used to love SRK, something which has taken a 180 degree turn now.

  3. thanks Saras :)
    I still like SRK, but not his acting.

  4. excellent....no words.
    I have always felt that majority of the audience dont understand Gulzar's lyrics. Whatever he writes is so deep and meaningful that you will never be able to squeeze the last drop of nectar from it. I would love to see your interpretation of "maiya-maiya, gulabi tare chun le" from Guru. I doubt if even 1% of audience/listeners have understood the meaning of this song.

  5. @Ranjit Singh
    Thanks a lot :)
    That's true, Gulzar's lyrics are amazing beyond imagination.
    I'd surely try to translate the song Maiya-maiya. I love it! In fact Gulzar has come up with some really nice lyrics for Rahman.

  6. Chappa chappa charkha chale...जाने कितने दिलों के अहसासात को आवाज ही नहीं रूह भी दी है गुलजार साहब ने...अलफाजों के जन्नत बसाते हैं वो , वो जन्नतनषीं हों..भरपूर जिन्दगी जीकर , आपके हमारे दिलों में ..

  7. @Kumar Zahid:
    :) abhi to unmein bahut zindagi baaki hai. insha'Allah abhi unke bahut geet, nazm aur kahaniyan sunne ko milengi :)

  8. Very very nicely done! One of your best posts on this blog.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I realy adore this song..

    but i would like to correct this part : Quraan contains more than those six kalmas .. and it's our holy book .. so every single letter of it is sacred ..

    la ilaha illa ALLAH , Muhammad rasoul ALLAH .. they are not just Kalmas in Quraan..it is the " Shihada " which means : that there is no God but ALLAH , and Muhammad is the messenger of ALLAH .. anybody would like to become a muslim must say those words and feel them with his heart , those words must be his faith (Iman)..

    so i really adore this song but i don't like this part that mixes something sacred like Quraan with music and dances and ishq words .. Gulzar should be more careful ..

    thanks :)

  11. This is such a delight to read. It may be hard to believe that the 5 and 4 year old son and daughter of a 52 year old Belgian living and working in Taiwan love this song as much as I do. All this because their Indonesian mother introduced me to the delights of Bollywood movies when we met 6 odd years ago.
    Now we even have a Bollywood movie channel to enjoy.
    When I first heard the song it made me think of a train. Then I saw the video and it was shot on a train. The rhythm and the words fit so well with the video.My son loves it because it is shot on a train that weaves through tunnels and over bridges. My daughter loves the beautiful scenery and dance moves. It can´t be accidental that the rhythm and choice of words bring to mind a train moving and that it is shot on a train?
    I am very impressed with your translations. It is nice to read the interpretation instead of just the literal word for word translation.
    Now that I have found this site, which I have already bookmarked, I will go through some more song lyrics to learn a bit more Hindi and our interesting look at the work of a person that inspires you. I know my wife knows Gulzar but she prefers another singer song writer. She is out right now and I forgot his name. He might not be as sophisticated as Gulzar but his tunes and lyrics are quite catchy, if I say so myself.

    Looking forward to more great posts.

    1. Hi! So glad you took the time out to post this comment. It's great that music is becoming a way to connect two cultures :)

      As for this song, the music composer (Rahman) took special efforts to make the background arrangement to sound like a train movement; since that was the way the director and choreographer had picturised the song in their minds.

      Love to your son and daughter :) Hope they keep enjoying the music :)

  12. Wonderful interpretation by you, Kanupriya. Lets keep touch, my email id is deanwisdom@banasthali.in Regards Harsh Purohit

  13. Hello Kanupriya,
    I recently stumbled upon your blog and fell in love with it. I have been hooked since 2 days. Will soon complete reading all the posts.

    Thank you for the beautiful translation.
    Here in this song, I loved the way gulzar Saab compares Almighty to fragrance. Fragrance is particularly deceptive. Most of the times it is hard to say where it is coming from, you can never see it or touch it yet you know that it is there. It exists. Because you can feel it. So true for either love or god right?


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